My dad set a great example for me with money. He worked hard every day to provide for all six of us kids and did it in a non-flashy, low-key manner. For example, he drove an old VW bug for most of my growing-up years. The bug was so old, it would consistently spew visible clouds of exhaust out the rear tailpipe every time it was turned on and driven down the street.
His clothing selection matched his automobile selection; items that could be worn again and again for decades. I got the sense early on from my dad that working was a privilege. “It must be,” I thought. After he worked all day Monday through Friday, he would collect us kids and we would do a project together (usually in the yard) most of the day Saturday. Sunday was filled with watching my dad conduct church service and helping numerous community members. Then back to work again at his job on Monday.
My dad’s money choices were a major blessing in my life. I learned:
- It is a privilege to work — enjoy it
- Spend money for things that have value
- Don’t waste money on things to show off
- Be grateful for what you have
The funny thing is I learned all these things without him ever sitting me down and talking to me about money values. The only time we consistently talked about money, was when he and my mom would check my “money book.” What is a money book? Well, my parents required each of their kids to keep a current a notebook with all earnings and expenses.
When I earned $5 doing an odd job or from babysitting, I would write it down. When I decided to spend 25 cents on a candy bar, I would write it down. I even kept track when I bought a new article of clothing. When my dad or mom was sitting down with me to check my money book and there were gaps in how much I had earned or spent, I had to fill in the gaps before privileges were restored. They took it that seriously.
They used the money book discussions to instill upon me the benefits of paying a tithing and saving part of my money for college. Our discussions centered on how well I was managing my own money. They never suggested I should earn more or spend less than someone else. They simply expected to see a record to prove that I knew how to manage my resources.
These discussions taught me several things:
- Money is a valuable tool, respect it
- It is important keep track of how much I earn and where I spend
- If something is important to me, I need to pay for those things first before my money is all spent
- Money management is a personal habit, it’s not important if I am doing it better or worse than someone else
My dad gave us a great gift by sharing his money habits and values with his kids. Occasionally, he used words.